At QuickSilver, experience has taught us that, when translating documents related to governmental bodies, it is best to produce a faithful translation which strives towards readability. Government documents are often long and – necessarily – complicated; we try to produce a translation which is as readable as possible within the constraints of accuracy.
We also know that it is essential for an NGO with a global focus to reach beyond one language, not least in terms of securing grants and funding.
One of the greatest challenges of legal or governmental translations is that although it may seem that a term in one language has a precise equivalent in another, it in fact has a broader or narrower meaning.
For example, the Polish term spółka z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością is usually translated as a limited liability company, which is a more or less direct translation. The problem is that within US law, the closest equivalent would be private corporation.
Another key issue is variation within a given language. When translating into English, for example, will your audience be based in the UK, USA or Australia? If the UK, in Scotland or England? All of these countries have distinct legal systems, but often use the same terminology to designate different or only partially overlapping concepts.
Likewise, the different varieties of Spanish use legal terms in different ways. In peninsular Spanish, jurisprudencia means legal philosophy (in other words, it is a cognate of the English jurisprudence), but in Mexico jurisprudencia refers to the event of the Mexican Supreme Court resolving a case in the same way five times and thus establishing a binding legal precedent.
Not being aware of issues such as these leads to – at best – confusion or – at worst – grave misunderstandings.